- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2000

As the ugly facts bubble to the surface about crooked cops in the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), public confidence in the District's government may inevitably slide even lower than it already is which isn't saying a lot, unfortunately.
According to public records, 13 MPD officers were convicted last year of major crimes, including sexual abuse, extortion, obstruction of justice, and kidnapping. Seven officers are awaiting trial on a gamut of charges ranging from possession of cocaine to armed robbery. In response to this embarrassment, the D.C. Council has vowed to heighten scrutiny of hiring and training policies but $400,000 spent "studying" the issue since 1997 has not done much good, apparently.
Many of the officers convicted or charged in crimes are members of the infamous "Class of 1990" a year when recruitment and screening standards were notoriously lax. Thorough background checks were not done in many cases, and officers of the law with major brushes with the law in their past were given guns and badges and turned loose on D.C. streets. Unfortunately for the city and its residents, union rules and regulations governing the hiring and firing of police officers make it difficult to get rid of dirty cops, even after they have been arrested.
D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who last year held a series of special investigative hearings on the police department, recently told The Washington Post, "It's common knowledge that there were officers hired in the last five to 10 years with inadequate background checks and inadequate psychological checks, and you are seeing the end result." Alarmingly, he adds that "one-fourth to one-third of the officers shouldn't be on the force."
Chief Charles Ramsey says, "The biggest problem is that it paints a picture that all police officers are corrupt." Well, yes, it sort of does that when "one-fourth to one-third" of the MPD's officers may not be fit to wear the uniform.
Perhaps the way to handle this problem is to conduct the background checks, screenings and psychological testing of officers hired since 1990 now, today that weren't done during the past decade to make up for what wasn't done when it should have been done. The only MPD officers who would have a problem with a background check are those who have something to hide that escaped scrutiny the first time around. And to suggest that such checks are unfair or not warranted simply because the officers are already on the force is addled. It's been well documented that a lot went wrong in the late 1980s and early 1990s with regard to hiring and training procedures for the MPD. Under the circumstances, it's hard to argue that attempting to repair the damage is unwarranted.
If you can't trust the police, whom can you trust? That's the bottom line. The perception of a corrupt, lawless MPD is doing great damage to the city's image. Something meaningful needs to be done about it and not just another $400,000 "study."

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